Q: I am currently a school librarian who is ready to expand her horizons. I have an MLIS and am also working on an Educational Technology MS. I am moving to Seattle soon and would like tips on entering the academic library scene.
TA: Making the switch from school libraries to academic libraries can be tricky. Academic librarians don’t necessarily see a lot of commonalities between what they do and the requirements and responsibilities of being a school librarian. Now that, of course, is a huge generalization, and it’s not intended to discourage; the real aim here is to educate. So, knowing that it can be tricky, you need to approach this wisely. First, having an additional master’s degree will be a real asset, especially in educational technology. Next, moving from one library to another, especially in another geographic area, is a great second chance at a first impression. That is, you can really reinvent yourself. Look at professional associations in the area that focus on academic libraries and jump in. It’s a great way to network, meet folks in the area, and establish a professional reputation for yourself in the new geographic location. Third, I think it’s important to consider your strategy in moving from one library to another. It might be difficult to go from a small school library to a large academic library. But you could try something more manageable in strategically going from a small school library, to a large public library. Then maybe from the large public library to a community college library, from community college to small academic, from small academic to large academic. You achieve your goal but in strategic, manageable, progressive career steps. There’s no one way that fits everyone, so don’t limit yourself when plotting out your career path. Be sure to look at our other responses that touch on transferable skills.
And I’m curious about other folks and their experience. Anyone successfully made the move from school to academic? Anyone in the Seattle area want to share their experience about living and working in the region? Any tips for new librarians getting started in Seattle?